The place of Yao and other ethnic minorities in official museums and histories in China, Thailand, and Vietnam shows the state’s involvement in identity politics. The museumizing of minority identities tends to endorse particular markers of difference, and simultaneously conceal both the state’s role in sanctioning particular identities and the state’s suppression of the cultural and agricultural practices that previously reproduced social difference. The discursive framework of modern nation-states contrasts with the explicit exclusion of upland populations by pre-modern polities in the region, and I argue that this apparent othering was only partly about the nonstate peoples and had as much to do with tensions among levels of the state. The Yao case suggests various entanglements of ‘tribal’ identities and the state’s projects, and indicates how anthropological theorizing about ‘peoples’ systemically failed to observe the historical role of the state in bifurcating the social and natural landscape.
- Minority identity
- Rhetorics and practices of difference
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)